My wife and I were married in May 1999. In the summer of that same year, we had the sad experience of losing a child to a miscarriage. Fortunately however not long after, we found ourselves expecting once again. In June 2000, our daughter Charlotte was born.
Charlotte was an absolutely delightful newborn, sleeping through the night only days after coming home. She was cute, well mannered and did not interrupt the routine of our year-old marriage the way a new baby typically would.
So, a few months later, we found ourselves expecting once again.
Given the trouble we had the first time out, and how quickly we were “in production” on our sequel, we were interested in keeping things quiet until the bun had been in the oven for at least a dozen weeks.
At that time, we were part of a “couples group” that got together several times a year for dinner. One Saturday in October we were headed over to one of these gatherings, when my wife turned to me and said, “now listen, I can’t drink because I’m pregnant. That said, I can’t have everyone asking why I’m not.”
Intrigued I replied, “so how can I help?”
With a smile on her face she said, “here’s what we’re going to do. When we first get there you grab a beer and finish it quickly. I will politely say that I’m going to wait a little. Then, when your beer is empty you go into the bathroom and fill the bottle with water. You then hand the water-beer to me and I sip it slowly all evening. Sound like a plan?” Indeed it did. It seemed like a perfectly simple and easy plan, one that I was pretty sure I couldn’t screw up.
We got to the party and at first everything went according to plan. I got my beer, making sure to choose one in a brown bottle. I drank it as quickly as I could without looking like a frat boy, and headed to the bathroom.
The house, in which the party was being held, is across the street from the house I grew up in. The houses in that neighborhood are all basically the same, with a half-bath on the first floor and two full-baths on the second floor. I entered the only appropriate bathroom, the powder room on the first floor.
I quickly closed the door behind me and flipped on the light.
It was then that I saw the problem.
Right where the sink should be, wrapped up in yellow “caution” tape, was an under-construction tangle of water and drain pipes sticking out of the wall… nothing more.
I found myself squarely in the middle of a real puzzle. I thought for a moment and surmised that I had the following actions from which to choose:
- Try and sneak upstairs to one of the other two bathrooms – risky and creeepy
- Try and fill the bottle in the kitchen without anybody seeing – risky
- Return to my wife without the decoy beer – not an option
- Fill the beer bottle from the water in the toilet tank
After reviewing all my options, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter… I cracked the lid of the tank and dunked the bottle.
Now, before you all flip out and tell me what an awful person I am, I feel the need to get into a little review on how toilets work.
Cold water enters the toilet from the very same pipes as all the sinks in a house. That water passes through the filler valve and into the tank. When someone rotates the handle, the flush valve (A.K.A “the flapper”) releases the water in the tank down into the bowl, flushing the contents of the bowl down the drain. The entire system is an elaborate, water-filled, one-way street.
I will admit that the water in the tank is in fact inside a toilet, but that water is completely clean, it is nowhere near any poo or pee. I walked back into the party, delivered the bogus beer to my wife and grabbed another for myself.
I thought my clever, creative genius had triumphed once again… until.
On the drive home, Emily turned to me and asked, “how did you fill that beer bottle with water without anybody seeing? I mean I thought you were going to use the bathroom sink, but there was no bathroom sink, so how did you do it?”
All husbands are faced with situations like this on a regular basis and they all boil down to a singular question.
Can any good come from telling the truth?
As I have stated many times before, my wife is an Intensive Care Pediatrician. She sees things in the hospital every day that would traumatize most of the rest of us. That said, there are some things she can’t handle… vomit for one. She is so sensitive to the smell of vomit that if exposed for more than a moment, she herself begins to hurl. So, when we hear our kids tossing their cookies, I am the one who runs to bathroom. Emily wishes she could, but first time we heard that tell-tale sound from down the hall, she looked right at me and said “I can go, but you’ll then have to clean up my puke too;” an argument begun, and won in a single statement.
So, there I am, sitting at an intersection, looking into the eyes of my pregnant, sensitive-to-bodily-fluids, wife as she waits for the answer to a completely reasonable question.
From the depths of my heart and mind I knew I had not put her in any danger. Any plumber can tell you that toilet tank water, while on the surface appearing to be sort of disgusting, is in fact totally harmless.
As I told her the truth, it was clear she didn’t see things the way I did.
Fortunately she did not hurl (had it been in the morning I think she probably would have). I did receive a solid chewing out, and when we got home she went straight to the bathroom and brushed her teeth for a very long time.
I started this blog eleven months ago to open a discussion about creative problem solving. The dipping of the empty beer bottle into the toilet tank, on the surface, was a problem solved most creatively, but sometimes things aren’t so simple.
To this day, when I hand my wife a beer, she will sometimes raise one eyebrow and ask, “you didn’t get that from the bathroom, right?” So, as the light bulb of brilliance illuminates above your head, take the time to measure how everyone involved will perceive your genius.
There is a great scene in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross where John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) tells a lie to a customer based on a small amount of information. It ends up being a very bad move and costs Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) $6,000 and a Cadillac. Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) is in the room as this argument takes place, and afterword walks up to Williamson saying, “If you’re gonna make something up, John, be sure that it helps.”
Honesty is still the best policy. Unless of course you just filled your wife’s beer with toilet water, in which case, you’re on your own.
Copyright © 2015 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved. (Toilet Tank Microbrew)